Monday, February 16, 2009

A lesson from the pigs?

We were looking at Mark 5:1-20 yesterday evening and during the interactive session on what we might learn from this, the question of what Jesus was doing with the pigs came up.

You'll know the story. Jesus is confronted by a demonized man who is besieged by a legion of evil spirits. They beg to be sent into a nearby herd of pigs rather than the abyss to await judgement. Jesus obliges. What's going on?

I suggested that through this action Jesus is passing a stern comment on the business-as-usual approach adopted by the townsfolk - and probably its leading citizens. The demonized man had been marginalized by this community that was making a good living through rearing pigs for sale, no doubt, to the sizable gentile populations of the region - not least the Roman army garrisoned around the area. He was chained and shoved out of the town into a graveyard.

Jesus is suggesting that the town had a duty of care to this man that they neglected while they got on with their money-making venture. So, in an act of judgment on business as usual, Jesus frees the demonized man and interrupts the town's casual reliance on cash.

Afterwards, someone asked me what the town's people could have done, since the demonized man was fearful and uncontrollable. That's a good question. But, it seems to me, that Jesus is saying that they should have done something more than cast him out, chain him up and get on with their lives. Care has a cost attached to it and part of that cost is that there'll be a shift of priorities from doing things for us to recognising the interests of those in need in our community.

I wonder if reading this story in the light of our current economic woes might help us reorient our values around caring for the vulnerable rather than maximising our own self interest.


Bob said...

How weird. I too was preaching on the same event - from Matthew (who has two demonised men). The community's response to Jesus action suggests that they didn't take too kindly to the implication that they cared more about money than about the men - they told Jesus to clear off. And will tell us the same, I'm sure...

Anonymous said...

Spot on! Though, it ought to be possible to create wealth whilst at the same time as caring for those who have needs.

The problem is not in making money, it is in the neglect of the responsibilities that money brings.

It would be a great start if church goers tithed and were as generous as they could be. Christians really must stop pointing the finger at 'others' when many, maybe even most, could and should do more.

simon said...

Yeah, absolutely Starbucks, if we used our money like the Christians in Acts, think of the difference we could make. we've got so much to learn, so much more to put into practice.